She's difficult to deal with and I suspect that she wants me to fire her in sort of a roundabout way. I don't think she wants to leave the work force, but I think she has no plans to change her behavior and is thinking that if worse comes to worse, I will fire her and she will get unemployment.
It's a problem. On one hand, Nanette breaks my heart. She is a 70 something spinster who is almost fanatical about her cat. She is mean spirited to the other two secretaries in the office, tries to foist her work off on them by pulling the age card, even though when I hired her five years ago, she told me that she felt her greatest strength was her "robustness of self."
But, when she doesn't feel like filing, she develops a cough or a limp and asks one of the other secretaries to do hers for her. And then when the filing is done, the cough, the limp, the whatever magically heals up.
Sometimes when she is all alone, I see something so melancholy in her face that I tell myself that she's not so bad. And then she does something or says something so crass that I can hardly bear her. Next month is her yearly evaluation. Last year, I told her that I needed to witness some real improvement in her social skills, especially since she is often the first person our patients see. I painstakingly went over a series of events that I felt she mishandled and asked her how she thought she could have done better. She shrugged. Like a teenager asked how her day at school was. Afterwards, she called someone on the phone and had a small rant, saying that she felt unappreciated here and that she was tempted to quit to show us all how fast the office would fall in her absence.
Unfortunately, while she was talking, the phone rang. Meaning, of course, that she was talking to no one. I suspected that this phone call occurred because she noticed that I was in our storage room right off the front desk and she passively aggressively wanted me to hear what she hadn't felt she could say. So, yes...embarrassing for her. To the other secretarys' credit, neither of them even cracked a smile. Nanette blushed furiously and slammed the phone down, got up and stalked off to the bathroom, sending the caller to voice mail.
So, when I saw a seminar for employee management, I thought that maybe I could go and get some good ideas on how to solve my Nanette problem.
I was mistaken. When I walked into the conference room in a large building downtown, I noted that the speaker was a very posh looking woman in a bright red suit. She looked energetic and well...perky. I wasn't sure if this was good or bad, but told myself to keep an open mind.
Her first words chilled me.
"First off, I want you to each stand up and tell us two true things about you and one lie. Then we'll all guess which is the falsehood."
Did I mention how much I DETEST game playing in seminars?
But, we all dutifully played along. I said what has come to be my standard answer. I have done this many, many times before.
I said that I used to be a roller skating car hop, that I was a perfect shot and that my ex husband was a priest now.
No one ever guesses correctly.
Then, Carla, our speaker, gave us a long speech about Feng Shui and how it would improve our office morale.
I have no big opinions about Feng Shui. I don't disbelieve or believe. And Carla didn't change my mind.
Then, I thought that it might get better. Carla asked us to each bring to mind a problem that we were having with employee management and that we'd have a table brain storm.
Except that she didn't really let anyone else talk and her remedies were silly and raggedly simplistic.
For the man who worried that his employees didn't show him enough respect, she suggested that he change his attire. That wearing more power colors would cause people to change their respect for him. Carla pointed down to her own suit.
"I am wearing red because it is a power color. When you all walked in and saw me, you knew that I was your facilitator," she said.
Well, no. We knew she was our facilitator because she stood at the front of the room fussing over her power point.
Another man admitted that one of his employees had just lost her husband and that he wanted to do or say the perfect thing to her, did we have any ideas? He was a single man, felt that he might have some form of autism as he seemed to lack social skills, especially with women.
Carla suggested that he take his employee into a private room and that they have a good cry together, that it would be cathartic for both of them and she would feel understood and loved.
Seriously? She thought THAT was the answer? If I lost Bing and one of my co-workers took me in a room and then sat there bawling and encouraging me to do that with her?
That would not work. AT all.
By this time, I think everyone but Carla knew this was going nowhere fast and we just wanted to end the two hour demonstration of Carla saying incredibly touchy feely stupid things to us. I asked Carla what her expertise was, what was her degree, etc?
"We aren't here to talk about me, Ms. Lastname. We are here to solve your employee problems," she said, smiling briskly at me.
Sigh. Big fucking damn sigh.
A quiet woman who hadn't said much spoke up.
"I would like to know how to address the problem of employees stealing from the workplace," she said. She ran a small office and noticed that she was having to put in lots of re-orders for mundane things like staplers and scissors.
Carla paused and before she could go into some asinine problem solving technique, someone suggested that she hold an office meeting regarding the problem, that perhaps bringing the issue to light would cause her employees to think before they snatched.
Carla pursed her lips, frowning.
"This brings me to our interesting closing," she said, in what I figured would make sense after she said it. It didn't.
It had nothing to do with the question posed, but none of us were complaining because we all had perked up at the word closing. We were also ruing the day that we had signed up for this seminar which had not been cheap.
I want you to think seriously about something," Carla said. "I want you to think about what your office says about you, what it says to your employees."
And then, she offered to give us more Feng Shui tips if we'd like to draw pictures of our offices or if we had brought photos for her. Not one person lingered. We all strode out of there like junkies who were late for a meeting with their dealer.
But, it did make me think as I drove back to the office.
What does my office say about me?
Well, it says that I like Danish Modern furniture. My desk is rosewood Danish modern. Bing found it for me online and purchased it for me years ago. It is perfect and fits me.
I have a nice dark brown leather desk chair. A matching leather sofa that is the kind that sort of swallows a person up. Children love it, parents not so much. And I don't blame them and keep sort of planning to replace it one day with something more modern, less swallowy.
One section of my office has books, dolls, toys, etc. All are designed to help children express themselves. The most popular items are the basic colored pop beads, probably the most simple toys in the room. Each Friday, our
I have two soft chairs that sit across from my desk. They are just the right amount of comfortable. Easy on the back, but not so easy that anyone is going to doze off.
My walls are a soft shade of a willowish tan. Hard to describe. The color on the paint chip said beginning sunset, but it truly has no hues of a sunset in it. Just a soothing very light sandalwood. I have prints that I love:
1) An original rendering of Baum's map of The Marvelous Land of Oz. It shows everything. The haunted forest, where the hammerheads live, where Dorothy's house fell, the poppy fields. It's colors are all soft yellows and golds with bits of green and teal.
2) A framed lithograph of a brick wall with the giant number 9 3/4 on it. My nod to Harry Potter. I have had more than one child (and adult) tell me that they wish they could just jump right through it to get to Hogwarts.
3) I have a drawing of a person sitting in a chair. Depending on how you see this person, it could be a woman, a man or a child. And the visage is blurred, again...could be smiling, or looking at something faraway in the distance or just a sweet blankness on the face. Children tend to see other children. Men see men. Women see women. Usually. Not always. It's interesting. Some days I see different things than others. It's a very moodish work.
And that's pretty much it. I have no windows in my office, it's only downfall. On my desk, I have several framed photos. My favorite is of Liv standing in front of a building in New York City with her legs spread apart, arms akimbo and a grin the size of a jack o'lantern on her face. Another photo is of Bing and me. My sister took this photo at a Christmas breakfast several years ago. I am vain enough to admit that I look really pretty in the photo in my black turtleneck while Bing, who is standing behind me with her arms around me, looks sort of tired and washed out.
She can put a different photo on her desk and does. The photo of us on her desk at work shows us standing next to each other, arms around each other. I think I look fat. I do look fat in that photo. But...yes...she looks great, all smiley and sure footed.
I also have a photo of the three of us that was taken long ago, but I love it so much that I can't replace it. Liv was about five when it was taken. The photo is in black and white. And I think we were all dressed in black to begin with. Bing is in dark jeans and a dark vee necked sweater. She has her head thrown back laughing hysterically at something I said. I am in a long twisty gypsy skirt with a long scoop necked top and tights and ballet slippers. I am looking down at the floor and grinning, one foot curved inward. Liv is standing in between us, holding both of our hands and looking directly at the camera in her pretty little puffed out dress, her hair in two long braids. She has a huge smile on her face and is wrinkling her nose. It was caught in between photo taking and is honestly the best one of all of them. So, I keep it.
Lastly, I have a photo of Sven, our erstwhile, down on his luck neighbor who is now somewhere we don't know and probably don't want to know either. He is sitting at our kitchen table in his high school sweatshirt with a can of Mountain Dew in front of him. He looks a little sunburnt and pensive, but has a small sweet smile on his face. There is a cake on the kitchen table in front of him. One of the many, many cakes that Liv and I made for her imaginary lion friend Charley's many, many birthdays.
I also have a Beatles mug that holds pens. A beautiful antique sugar bowl that holds paper clips and a mouse pad that has a question on it: Do you believe in fairies? Clap your hands, if you believe!
Oh...and how could I forget? I have a small Peter Max framed photo of a small man holding an umbrella and a little larger ink rendition of Kurt Cobain, a gift from a friend who was with me the first time we saw Nirvana at a small bar in New York when we were in college and they weren't big yet. He drew it for me and I adore it.
My floor is a nondescript tan wood one. Might be oak. I'm not sure. Our whole office has the same flooring. I do have a beautiful Lakota rug that covers most of my floor, an unbelievable generous gift from Liv's paternal grandmother who actually MADE it herself. It is a soft blue and green with bits of brown and gold here and there. It is lovely. Many, many children have sat on this rug and played with toys or just sat in shy silence, tracing its patterns until they felt comfortable with me.
So, I'm not sure what my office says about me. I do know that it is my home away from home. And the place that I feel most comfortable in outside of my own home. Everyone should be so lucky, eh?
What do you think my office says about me? Or better...what does YOUR office look like?